And He withdrew from them about a stone’s throw, and He knelt down and began to pray, saying, “Father, if You are willing, remove this cup from Me; yet not My will, but Yours be done.”
I am 12, kneeling on the floor of my bedroom, squinting while scribbling lyrics to a rock n’ roll song playing on my record player. I just lost some of you, but wait, there’s more. It was a 45 RPM. Not important which one, because I had a collection, the point isn’t about the record, player or even the song, it’s about this crazy obsession of capturing words and transferring them to paper. It’s about this consuming desire to bring words to life, life to words. To understand what was …and is beneath the surface of the obvious. Maybe it’s about something deeper still.
I sometimes wonder why some float through their days oblivious and happy, no desire to seize the day, never mind try to command the moments. But I recognize in me this one yearning in my love of planners, journaling and books and it is to take hold of something that is intangible. I long to take hold of the unseen world and shake it into appearing. I plan the days, the dreams, goals and more often than I care to admit, stuff happens I had not planned at all. I capture bits of life and pieces of memories but, I can’t hold those who have slipped into shadow. I long for significance…to step into immortality, slip past the gates secure. Safe…unscathed by death.
Who plans for a friend to get cancer, a husband to be unemployed, a teen to come home pregnant, a child to die? Life is hard, isn’t it? Life is hard, friends. Who plans for the stark nakedness of life? We long to be clothed in good things, happiness, security. Sometimes we try so hard, we forget truth. We forget eternal words that were written long ago. We forget that God is real because there is so much pain in the world. We immerse ourselves in distraction upon distraction. But none of us can escape reality forever. If you think life owes you guarantees, you are going to be sorely disappointed, and eventually completely disillusioned.
I think that my own complicated history has lead me to this planner love I have. I love to sketch a day of beauty, and I am grateful for the days when God gifts them to me. But, I think there is a fine line we need to be very careful about walking. See, the Jesus I follow- His Father planned His pain and suffering in advance for a purpose. That gives me great cause to pause when I start thinking my life should be all laughter and lollipops, as an old school friend used to say. I cringe when followers of this Jesus omit this reality. I have studied many of those God has used mightily in their earthly lives, and many of them suffered publically, privately, in living or dying.
Jesus himself on Life 101:
“I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
I think it can be downright dangerous when certain people put down those who, in their sight, must be doing something wrong or not seeing things right. Who died and made you Job’s friend? The fact is unless Jesus comes back, friend, right now, none of us is getting out of this place alive. As in, minus suffering. So before you preach some pie in the sky perfect life and living, you better consider good old Job. Because, God doesn’t appoint pain and suffering randomly, but He can, will and does use all things for His good and perfect will according to His purposes.
I know for me, having had no say in some of some of my early life experiences has given insight into some of the lies people believe about life, living, faith and fairy tales. I didn’t plan to be a victim of sexual abuse as a child. Did not check off the “divorced” option in the Choice of Parents list. I never heard the label “latchkey kid” until college. Sometimes life is an avalanche of problems piled high on a soul. We don’t always get to choose all of the things that come our way. We don’t always get to know why…now. Maybe never.
It is a slow learning, this unclenching of the hands that is trusting a God I can’t see, sometimes can’t hear, and too often have shaken my fist toward.
But in the end, it comes down to planning the days I have with my feet on the ground and both eyes toward a distant horizon. To shaking off the dust and dirt of my own attitudes, arrogance and finite perception and sitting in the quiet place of His Sovereign Grace and Truth. It’s not loud with bells and whistles either. It won’t compete for attention. Chances are that quiet place will dwindle to non-existance in your life if you don’t fight to keep it. It will be drowned out by news, noise and your own boisterous desires, and it’s absence will leave you depleted, dry and dreading the days.
In HIM we will have peace…here now? Trouble.
But because there is One who has gone before us into the great unknown, we can find our security in Him and His truth. The reality of His sacrifice sheds perspective, gives hope, peace and strength for real life. The bottom line is, I can plan my days, and plan them I do…but when my plan for the days collides with His, it forces me to look up and remember the words I need, not just on Sunday, but every. Single. Day. Of my life.
“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet not my will, but yours be done.” Luke 22:42
Pray this prayer with me?
Lord, thank you that though it is needful that I plan my days, it is also needful that I trust you. Give me wisdom to plan with purpose in submission to your good and perfect will. Help me to withdraw from the things that drown out your voice, drain me of energy and cause me to forget your Sovereignty. Help me to seek you first before planning my days, trusting in your goodness, mercy and love, relying on your Spirit, not my own strength. Remind me daily that Love looks like a bloody Saviour on a Cross… this Jesus holds true power and freedom for all. In Him, and time spent with Him, there is peace. Remind me that people are hurting and need to know THIS Jesus who came, and died, and LIVES, LEADS, INTERCEDES now, longs to be known intimately by ALL. May I never forget that it is the Truth, not perfect plans or planners that set people free. In you , I live, move and have my being, now and forever. Amen.